8 Reasons Your Marketing is Uninspired

The biggest obstacle to your digital marketing is a sense of disempowerment. It’s not a lack of technique – technique can be learned. It’s not the lack of a plan, or even a strategy – that can be coached. It’s the words you say to yourself and others. They can be toxic to your intentions.

You Are Sure You’re Doing it Wrong

It’s safer to be self-critical, because then we won’t discover that we did something imperfectly. And we think, because we’re in business, and big corporations tell us to think it, that businesses are supposed to do things perfectly – flawlessly – safely. The truth is there is no perfection in marketing, and no one knows what they’re doing, in any ultimate way. Marketing is an attempt to improve something, not a guarantee, and not a series of SAT questions. You don’t get it right, you get it good, and that doesn’t happen without a lot of trial and error, and a lot of doing reasonably well or just decent. What’s the cost of doing it wrong? You learn. It’s a reward that goes to those who are doing it at all. And no, we can’t just copy someone who seems to get it, and skip the process. Each business must market uniquely, even when it’s the same. Shortchange the process, and you drain the oil out of your marketing gears.

You Wait for Perfection, Which is Never Coming

The successful marketer fails, fails often, and fails well. That’s because the ONLY successful marketer is one who DOES something WITHOUT waiting for it to be perfect and without waiting to know if it will succeed and in what degree it will succeed. Anyone who tells you otherwise is marketing *us*, and not being straight about it. Don’t wait for people to tell you that what you’re doing is OK – don’t make your effort contingent on approval – there are tons of marketing campaigns executed with corporate approval that are seen by the world and fail utterly to inspire or interest us. Approval, even self-approval, is no guarantee, and self-deprecation just guarantees we don’t act often enough to learn anything and improve. The act of marketing is about some trial and error, some strategy, and continual improvement – so leave room for that. Experiment. Break a few things. Make mistakes. Buck up and act like you own your company, which is true – at least for the marketing part.

You Focus on Looking Good Instead of Going Live

Embarrassment will bind our hands and blind our minds. If we look at almost everything we do as either directly or indirectly, wholly or partly aimed at looking good and not looking bad, we’ll find that we get about the same relative degree of success in everything we attempt. But that’s not what we’re aiming for in marketing. We’re aiming to reach an audience, build a brand reputation, and increase business relationships that grow our business. Remove the self-focus; that’s not social, it’s antisocial. Turn the focus on connecting with someone, being genuine, authentic, impacting at least one other person with something ‘real’. In short, don’t be so ‘corporate’ – especially if you’re a small business. Don’t try to ‘look like’, simulate, pretend anything – be more of what you actually are. If in doubt, post. Send. Ship. As Seth Godin points out in his book about the courage to ship, the one who ships, ships often, and keeps shipping regardless of failures, succeeds where the one who waits never will.

4. You Want to Learn Without Gaining Experience

You don’t download learning directly to your brain, like in The Matrix, where we just plug ourselves in like a thumb drive and we ‘know’ Kung Fu. That’s because actual knowledge isn’t intellectual content, it’s experience. What we can’t apply, we don’t really know. Marketing is all about experience, and we need to gain some on behalf of our company. We learn by doing. We have to take our knocks and do it relatively poorly in order to get actually better. We can hire a coach, which is what we do, but we can’t really just dump the whole process onto something external, without it deviating (a little at first, but with an ever widening vector) from our company’s brand, ethos, and audience. Get your feet wet and your hands dirty, and stop acting like it’s not a necessary part of the company’s growth.

5. You Haven’t Made Marketing a Priority

Wanting clients is not the same thing as prioritizing marketing. Perhaps wanting growth is a priority for us, but having growth actually isn’t. We already know, as professionals, that if we want food, clothing, and shelter, we work. Perhaps we’re doing far better, and making work a way to achieve satisfaction and fulfill our passion. If we want business growth, more clients, wider brand recognition, we’ll designate marketing a top company priority and act accordingly. The myth of the neglected marketing department, or the lonely and misunderstood marketing admin, is that we care about marketing in the first place. They’re not misunderstood or neglected, they’re segregated to the point of irrelevance. The E-myth suggests that many business owners became business owners because they had a skill and wanted to be independent, not because they took into account the full array of business operations they would need to master. Just as accounting can be so inconsistent and idiosyncratic as to make our bookkeeper want to fire us, marketing easily suffers from the same things for the same reasons. That slight distaste some business owners express toward marketing as a justification for letting it slide, covers a deficiency not in marketing per se, but in operational qualifications necessary to operate a company – the first of which is commitment to each of the parts in an authentic awareness of how they are interdependent.

You Believe Your List of Excuses

We say digital marketing is technical – which, besides not being true, presumably absolves us from doing what is needed. We say we don’t have time. Our list of justifying reasons is long and monolithic. We make marketing out to be impossible, not because it is, but because then we can’t be blamed for not doing it. But there is no one to blame us except ourselves, so we’re fooling our own business savvy. Make a list of the reasons marketing is essential, required, a company commitment. Give those reasons power, not the rationalizations for inaction. Write the motivations into the company ethos, the business standards, the professional commitments of yourself and each member of your team. The result will be that the tap on the company consciousness will travel down the nervous system and into its limbs, so the business will begin to turn and move. Believing the excuses will ensure extinction – not today perhaps, but when conditions are less favorable and it’s too late in the game to achieve rapid momentum.

You Are Operating on Assumptions About Why It Won’t Work

We’re sure *our* prospective clientele aren’t in social media, or aren’t on Twitter, despite all the demographical statistics saying otherwise; it’s like being in the 1980s and thinking homosexuality doesn’t exist in our town. People aren’t what we think, they’re what they are. We’re just certain that blogging isn’t effective in our industry, perhaps because our competitors aren’t doing it (huge fallacy there, if we actually intend to beat the competition) or because we think we have search engines and buyer behavior figured out, even if our assumptions about it are a decade old. We talked to someone who has slightly more ‘technical’ knowledge than us, which therefore makes him a guru, and he said to focus on keywords. Assumptions do nothing for our marketing but keep it from being creative and effective. Generally they ensure it’s outdated or obsolete, like stuffing keywords. A far more useful exercise that can revolutionize your marketing is to write down every assumption you have about why something won’t work (for your prospects, your industry, your business, or in general), and set out to prove it wrong.

You Want to Avoid Your Audience

The two things we can’t hide in our marketing are 1) being derivative and 2) avoiding a consistently authentic encounter with our audience. If we just want to extract something from them, that’ll come through loud and clear. If we don’t want to know what’s in their heads, and don’t want to have a conversation that isn’t at the cash register (figuratively or actually), everyone with enough sensitivity will see that. Changing our strategy won’t work until we change our mentality; we can always tell when someone puts only half his or her heart into something. And if we claim to put our heart into our business, we’re fibbing if we don’t do that with our marketing and our audience, because marketing is a good chunk of the business. The rest is just service fulfillment and, theoretically, we could just outsource that. Conversely, when we outsource the audience conversation, that avoidance on our part gets felt and mutes the results, no matter who is telling us they can pretend better than any other proxy. Want ‘engagement’ from your audience? It’s a nice buzzword. Get it from engaging your audience, not avoiding them.

Disempowered marketing really comes from just ONE thing, of which the things we listed are just examples. Disempowered marketing comes from an inauthenticity. Somewhere, lurking in the array of attitudes, assumptions, beliefs, needs, and intentions is an inauthenticity. Find it, call it out, name it, and work agains it rather than for it. Otherwise, it will control your business and hamper your efforts at marketing and ultimately your company reaching the next plateau of growth. If you need help putting your finger on it, or with what to do about it, contact MadPipe for help restoring your company’s momentum.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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